POLITICS

At least 20 arrested in crackdown on alleged Mafia-linked drug network

05/29/2013 12:15 EDT | Updated 07/29/2013 05:12 EDT
MONTREAL - Authorities say they've put a dent in the next generation of organized crime with a sweeping series of drug-trafficking arrests Thursday.

Police say the 20 people arrested in raids had been plying their trade in Montreal's east-end and were looking to grow their business.

Cmdr. Ian Lafreniere described the group as up-and-comers, with the average age of those arrested being around 30.

"We are talking about young people who are taking the place of other people that have been there," said Lafreniere, a senior Montreal police spokesman.

The other notable element is that, while the group is allegedly linked to the Italian Mafia, he said it doesn't have any affiliation to a specific clan, like the Rizzutos.

Organized crime has been in a state of flux in the last few years with a series of attacks against Mafia-linked figures and analysts have wondered whether anyone was in charge.

Lafreniere said the arrests demonstrate a sharp change in how organized crime is functioning in the city. In the past, police have been able to identify individuals as being part of a certain group — be it a particular street gang or organized crime clan.

Now, Lafreniere said, it's all about money and greed and affiliations change quickly.

"I'd say that for the past year, it hasn't been the same and we're not talking about distinct groups anymore," Lafreniere told reporters outside Montreal police headquarters on Wednesday.

"One group can easily change colours overnight and side with another group if there is money to be made."

The drug-trafficking network operated in Montreal and two communities on the city's North Shore. Roughly two dozen warrants were executed in east-end Montreal, Laval and Terrebonne.

The network is allegedly responsible for the distribution of cocaine, marijuana and synthetic drugs, mostly out of Italian cafes.

Some sales were also conducted out of private residences.

Lafreniere said officers have also seized 29 weapons and will analyze them to see if they are linked to any crimes.

Several police forces are involved in the raids including Montreal police, the RCMP and Quebec provincial police. Other municipal forces were also involved.

Police began knocking on doors about 5 a.m. and they said the operation remained ongoing with further arrests possible.

Lafreniere said they don't expect to make any names public until Thursday when many are expected to appear in court.